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Getting Stronger and Faster, One Leg At A Time

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 03/17/15, 4:00PM EDT

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Strengthen the legs for a longer and more explosive stride

Lower body lateral movement is an important strength to hockey players when exercising. Focusing on one leg at a time challenges the athletes and are progressive, meaning they can be made more difficult as the athlete gains proficiency. These movements are essential for developing strength and coordination in the lower body, especially as it relates to hockey. 

The single leg step down is the first of the two exercises. It is a knee-dominant movement, which reinforces proper muscle firing, foot and knee positioning and overall coordination of the lower body. It can be progressed from beginner to expert with a number of different variables including tempo, resistance and height of step. 

Coaching cues on how to execute the single leg step down: 

  • Align one foot on the edge of the step or box 
  • Position the opposite leg with the ankle bone of the foot on the box
  • Emphasize the mid-foot to heel on the box 
  • Begin to descend to the floor and make light contact with the floor
  • Push through the heel and return to the top position

The second movement is a hip-dominant movement, which is called the single-leg deadlift. This is also a unilateral movement, which focuses on the hips and hamstrings of the athlete.  A hockey athlete with mobile hips is one that has the ability to skate faster and more efficiently. 

Coaching cues on how to execute the single-leg dead lift: 

  • Begin with a slight bend in the working leg
  • Initiate the movement by hinging at the hip
  • As the upper body moves towards the floor aiming for chest parallel to the floor, the back leg is pushed back until it reaches a point that aligns with the top of the head
  • A side view should represent an alignment of the crown of the head, hips and heel of the back foot


Hockey is played one stride at a time and athletes must include some bilateral work in their in-season and off-season training. Both of these movements can be done with no resistance other than bodyweight, but can also be advanced with resistance for the more experienced athlete. At ETS these movements are used in a variety of ways to challenge our athletes and create strong and healthy legs.

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About ETS

Mark Fitzgerald is the owner of Elite Training Systems in Whitby Ontario and has been in the field of strength and conditioning for over ten years. He is the training and nutritional consultant for the Ontario Hockey League, head of the Canadian Hockey League combines and lead training consultant for Under Armour Canada.